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  • Kristin McNealus, DPT, MBA

Benefits of Intentional Breathing

If you practice diaphragmatic breathing, you will develop an ability to choose this relaxation response when you start to feel that stress response. This can lower anxiety, it can lessen pain, and it may decrease the risk of stress-related conditions. Increased stress leads to heart disease, digestive disorders, sleep disorders, depression, and pain syndromes.

When the body is in this stress response frequently, it can divert blood from the gut. This is because the brain is telling the body to get ready to fight, and the muscles need the blood. Taking this blood from the gut can cause various digestion issues.

Our breath is also closely related to our pelvic floor musculature. This can get more complicated, but the pressure created in our bellies by the diaphragm is balanced by out pelvic floor muscles. If you are not provided sufficient pressure on your organs with your diaphragm, your body may increase the tension held in your pelvic floor muscles. This can lead to pelvic pain and/or weakness. Pain can be vague in location and inconsistent. It is often difficult to diagnose. Weakness can cause some difficulty in holding urine. All because we did not take time to think about our breathing. If any of this sounds familiar, there are physical therapists who specialize in pelvic health. You can find one near you by visiting:

You may notice an increased effort will be needed to use the diaphragm correctly. At first, you may get tired while doing this exercise. But keep at it, because with continued practice, diaphragmatic breathing will become easy and automatic. Practice this exercise 5-10 minutes. Gradually increase the amount of time you spend doing this exercise, and once you feel more comfortable, perhaps even start incorporating this breathing technique into everyday settings. Maybe when you are still in your car before going inside, before bedtime after the kids are asleep, or in the morning when you first wake up. You may find that you are able to find a place of a little less stress. Hopefully, it will help ease digestion issues. And maybe you can lower your level of anxiety.

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